In her newest novel, Breaking the Rules, Tinthia Clemant has woven a story about one brave woman’s determination to take back her life as she learns that love doesn’t always hurt.
Publication date: April 15th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Love isn’t supposed to hurt.
Hedge witch Shannon Baldos isn’t looking for love. She isn’t even looking for sex. She’s looking for the courage to finally leave her gaslighting husband’s ass. So the last thing she needs is a distraction, like the town’s land-grabbing yet oh so sexy property developer, Adam St. John.
Then again, maybe a little distraction is exactly what she does need.
Growing up under the domineering thumb of her maternal grandmother, and then married to a misogynistic husband, thirty-nine-year-old Shannon Baldos has learned that love hurts. For almost seven years she’s lived under the thumb of her abusive husband, all with the guise of wanting to give her son a stable home. The truth? She’s stayed because she’s a coward. Still is. But maybe, with heart fluttering, groin throbbing, Adam St. John by her side, or on top of her, under works too, she might discover some hidden courage and finally take her son and escape. As for falling for St. John and his pirate grin, not a chance. Rule #1: Don’t fall in love.
Referred to as an emotional train wreck, Wexford’s successful developer, Adam St. John, has rules. A lot of them. Created to keep him well-insulated from further pain and disappointment with regards to life, and love. At forty-nine, he’s quite happy with his life of solitude. With three divorces under his belt, he’s in no hurry to add a fourth. Besides, there are more than enough women willing to keep him warm at night. But when he meets the town’s green-eyed witch with the freckles splattered across the bridge of her nose, and the hips that sway under her flowing skirts, one night of passion leaves him craving more. Maybe it’s time to break a few rules.
The voices of the patrons inside Brewin’ Beans hummed steadily against the whirring and sputtering of the espresso machine. Like bees around a hive, customers waiting for their morning fix of caffeine hovered by the counter. From where she sat, Shannon had a full view of the entire inside of the café. Jimbo hated when she called the Beans a café. ‘For the love of Pete,’ he’d complain. ‘Call it what it is, a goddamn coffee shop.’
Of the handful of establishments in Wexford, the Beans was her favorite place to be. A friendly staff was always ready to serve her, and the coffee was as good as any European bistro. Of course, she’d never been to Europe, but she imagined it to be true. Plus, her scones were featured daily in the bakery case.
And, of course, there was Jimbo. She sipped her lukewarm espresso and followed his movements. At six feet seven inches tall, three feet wide, with a shock of white hair, matching bushy eyebrows, and a chest-length beard, he was hard to miss. When she’d first met him, she’d immediately thought Old Saint Nick had decided owning a coffee shop in a small town in New Hampshire was the way to spend his off-time from the North Pole. Jimbo even sported the portly belly that shook whenever he laughed, which was often.
A local kid who would ‘never amount to anything,’ Jimbo Albie had spent his middle- and high-school years playing football, stealing cars, and getting high. After he graduated, he bought a motorcycle and moved to Manchester, where he partied, sold drugs, and spent a good deal of time behind bars.
If it hadn’t been for Adam St. John dragging Jimbo into rehab and then back to Wexford, he would have wasted away in some obscure alley. The developer had helped Jimbo buy the building she was sitting in and had handled all the renovations.
Shannon wrinkled her nose, distaste tinging her saliva. Being a good friend to Jimbo didn’t excuse St. John for what he really was: a money-hungry, land-grabbing jerk.
She felt no love for the residents of Wexford, but the wooded areas were magnificent, and St. John was mowing them down for his grotesque housing developments. If she’d been allowed to join the Conservation Committee, she’d be working hard to stop him, but nope, witches need not apply. She’d curtly been informed this by the committee’s chairperson and self-appointed witch hunter, Leeann, two e’s-two n’s. The woman needed to get a better way of introducing herself: ‘Hi, I’m Leeann¾two e’s-two n’s¾Chambers.’ Seriously, who introduces themselves like that? Every town had someone like her, the busybody who made sure her perky little nose was in everything.
Shannon signaled toward the two women who entered the café. The larger of the women walked up to the booth with a determined stride, unkempt frosted hair pushed behind her ears, cheeks, normally flushed, blazing cherry red. “I have a showing, so we need to make this snappy.” Cantankerous at times, opinionated often, and Irish to the core, Denise ‘Dee’ Boyle had a take-charge manner, and that morning was no different. Peering out from under hooded eyelids, she studied Shannon’s petite coffee cup. “You’re drinking espresso?” Her husky voice was thicker than usual, indicating a hangover. “Why don’t you drink real coffee like normal people?” Dee waved her hand at Shannon. “Switch sides, I need to see the door.”
“It’s great to see you too, Dee,” Shannon said, exiting her seat. “Morning, Peg.” She paused to hug the tall redhead standing behind Dee.
“Everything okay, Shan?” Peg stooped to place a light kiss on Shannon’s cheek.
“Yeah, fine. I—”
“Stop talking,” Dee said. “Peg, sit. What do you both want? My treat. The Holstein house sold, and my commission check was through the roof. Jeff and I stayed up late celebrating, and now I can’t get rid of this stinking headache. Shan, do you have any of your magic shit with you?”
“Hmm, let me see, what do I want?” Peg said, tapping her chin with her index finger.
“This isn’t rocket science, Peg,” Dee snapped. “Make a decision.”
“I’ll have a double latte and one of Shannon’s scones,” Peg decided.
“Same for me,” Shannon added. “But no scone.” She handed Dee a small packet of white powder. “For your headache.”
“Why the two of you can’t drink normal coffee is beyond me.” Dee took the powder and looked at the line near the counter. “That’s bullshit. I’m not waiting in that. I’ll go round and corral Jimbo from behind.”
Dee marched away, leaving Peg to roll her eyes and Shannon chuckling.
“I wouldn’t want to be Jimbo.”
“He’s a big boy; he can handle Dee.” Peg removed a mirror from her purse and handed it to Shannon. “Hold this, will you?”
Peg¾christened Margaret¾O’Neil was the princess of the group. Tall and slender, with the grace of a swan, she was also the referee, often separating Shannon and Dee when they locked horns. She positioned Shannon’s hand in the exact right spot and smiled, revealing straight, polished-to-a-brilliant-shine teeth. “Perfect, don’t move.” She removed a hair clip, and a mass of curls the color of an October sunset tumbled over slender shoulders covered by a pink cotton hoodie. Repositioning the lion’s mane back on top of her head, she loosened a few strands and allowed them to coil around her neck. Frowning, she said, “I hate my nose.” She took the mirror and closed it with a decisive snap. “When I’m rich, I’m going to get it fixed.”
“I wouldn’t,” Shannon advised. “Your nose gives you a Greek-goddess look.”
“Thanks, Shan, but I’ve never liked it. I guess it goes back to being given nicknames like Honker when I was in grade school.”
“Yeah, well, grade school can be a tough time for kids,” Shannon said. “How’s the studio? I keep meaning to get over there, but I never seem to find the time.” She diverted her eyes, not wanting Peg to see that she was lying. She had plenty of time to visit her friend’s yoga studio, but when Justin had found her mat in the closet, he’d torn it in half, telling her to clean the house if she needed exercise.
“Don’t worry about it. Yoga isn’t for everyone.”
“I like yoga. I used to do it when Chad was first born. It’s just that…”
Peg reached out and patted Shannon’s hand. “Really, I mean it. It’s okay.”
Shannon bit at her lip and nodded. Hoping a change of topic might appease her guilt at being a shit friend, she asked, “How’s Haley?”
“She’s a fucking witch.” Peg covered her mouth with her fingers. “Oh, sorry, I don’t mean your kind of witch. I’m thinking of the ones with pointy noses and green skin.”
“I get it, but try and find another word. What’s she done this time?”
“She picks fights with me constantly. I can’t even breathe without her having something nasty to say.”
“Has she started her…?”
“Her period? Yes, and that’s part of the problem. She and I have the same cycle, so we’re both wit—bitches at the same time of the month. The other day she called me…” Peg leaned forward, her voice lower than a whisper. “...a cunt.” Sitting back, she added, “What do you think about that?”
“I think my grandmother would have washed my mouth out with a gallon of bleach if I had called her that, though I wanted to. What’d you do?”
“I locked her in her bedroom, which was a waste of time because she went out her window. I swear, I’m at the end of my rope.”
It was Shannon’s turn to pat Peg’s hand. “I’m sure it’ll get better, but I’m glad it’s you and not me. Girls can be mean.” And adults, she’d almost added, her thoughts cycling back to Justin. The names he’d called her over the years would shock Peg.
“Tell me about it. I’d love to send her to a camp this summer. Someplace far away, like China.”
Dee flopped onto the seat next to Peg and reached for a napkin. She wiped her face and complained, “It’s a madhouse up there. You should have seen the looks I got when I walked behind the counter.” The damp napkin dropped on the table. “Shannon, your scones are sold out. I guess the new flavor was a hit. And I ordered a pot of real coffee. You two can take it or leave it.”
“I’ll make more tonight,” Shannon said. “Where’s the coffee?”
“Jimbo’s daughter is bringing them over with some bagels. He needs to do something about the AC in this place.” A second crumpled napkin joined the first. “What were you two talking about?”
“Nothing, really,” Peg answered. “My evil daughter and that you two haven’t come by for a free class.”
“You know I don’t like yoga.” Dee centered her hazel eyes on Shannon. “Right now I want to know why the urgent meeting? Is Justin divorcing you so he can marry Shelby?” Based on her laughter, Dee seemed to enjoy her little joke.
Peg bumped Dee’s shoulder, clearly not amused. “Not funny.”
“Whatever. So what’s up, Shan? Wait a minute. Here comes our food.”
A petite young girl arrived at the table and set down a coffee pot, mugs, and food. “Here you go, ladies. Dad said to yell if you want anything else.” She did a pirouette on her white Keds and almost skipped back to the front counter.
“I can’t even imagine how that cute little wisp has Jimbo’s genes.” Dee snorted and grabbed the cinnamon raisin bagel. “Maybe she’s the mailman’s.”
Peg daintily selected the plain bagel. “You might recall Jimbo was a good-looking guy in his younger days.”
“Yeah, was,” Dee answered. “Not any more. That’s what drugs and alcohol does to a person. Maybe it’s true that St. John got it on with Jimbo’s wife.”
“Dee, don’t even kid about things like that,” Peg said.
Dumbfounded, Shannon stared at Dee. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“What? It’s always been a rumor. Ask Jimbo. He’ll tell you.”
“That’s not the point,” Peg continued. “Adam wouldn’t do something like that to his friend.”
Dee snorted and smeared a piece of her bagel with cream cheese. “He’s St. John. He’d fuck Malcolm’s wife if given the chance.”
“Who’s Malcolm?” Shannon asked.
Peg gave Dee an incensed glare. “Adam’s half-brother, and he wouldn’t sleep with another man’s wife.”
The two entered into an argument about St. John’s integrity while Shannon sipped her coffee. If the rumors were true, Adam St. John was a manwhore. Not that there was anything wrong with sleeping around. Back in the day, she’d played a robust game of musical beds…and hallways…and cars, along with an elevator or two, sleeping bags, and even a rowboat. At any rate, his promiscuity had nothing to do with her reasons for not liking him. Since she’d never even met the man, she had no idea if he was a blowhard, as Justin called him; her opinion was based purely on what the developer was doing to the town.
Dee waved her spoon. “Snap to it, Shan. I’ll be leaving soon.”
Shannon lowered her cup.
“Give her time,” Peg said. “She’s thinking.”
“She’s not thinking; she’s daydreaming. Come on, Shan, spit it out, whatever you called us here for.”
Shannon inhaled and released air through her teeth. She shouldn’t share information like wanting a divorce; it was a private matter. If she’d learned one thing from her grandmother, it was not to air dirty laundry for the world to see.
Dee stirred her coffee with an impatient tapping. “Any day now.”
Shannon lowered her hands to her lap. “It’s nothing. I shouldn’t have bothered you two. I’m sorry.”
“Bull. Come on, tell us. I promise I’ll keep my big mouth shut,” Dee said.
With a quick intake of air, Shannon blurted, “I’m thinking of leaving Justin.”
The gaping mouths facing her told her she should have started with a more subtle lead-in.
Tinthia Clemant was born in Medford, Massachusetts, over sixty years ago. Her childhood was a happy one. She lived in a loving home with her three siblings, mother and father. Her imagination soared as she passed the days enacting the scenes from the stories that spun through her mind.
Tinthia always wrote. From the time she first picked up a pencil, or perhaps it was a crayon, she wrote. Stories about searching for secrets. Stories about joy and sadness; friendship and betrayal; and, of course, stories about true love.
She self-published her first book by stapling six pages together. Her marketing plan was simple--give the book to her mother for Mother's Day. Marketing her indie-published books has gotten a whole lot harder but she pushes on, knowing the worlds she creates will take each reader on a magical journey.
A romantic women's fiction author, Tinthia fell in love with romance when she witnessed, at the impressionable age of five, the power of true love. On the silver screen of the Meadow Glen drive-in, she watched Prince Phillip defeat Maleficent's tangled web of thorns and the fire-breathing dragon so he could save his lady love. As Phillip pressed his lips against Sleeping Beauty's, she understood the power of true love's first kiss.
As a hopeful romantic, Tinthia has searched far and wide for that special someone who will take her breath away. Unfortunately, she has yet to find love's magical kiss. However, she learned a lot about herself along the way and uses these lessons to weave her stories and the strong (and older) heroines she brings to life.
Tinthia lives on the banks of the Concord River and spends her time teaching science at a local community college, gardening, painting, tending her flock of Mallards (follow her natural history blog at: concordriverlady.com), reading, and, of course, writing about journeys, disappointment, joy, and true love. Her two favorite men are Ben and Jerry and she wishes they would bring back the summer flavor, Blueberry Cheesecake.
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