Blog Tour: SWEET THING by Renee Carlino
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tour Hosted by: Love Between the Sheets
Mia Kelly is a twenty-five-year-old walking Gap ad who thinks she has life figured out when her father’s sudden death uproots her from slow-paced Ann Arbor to New York City’s bustling East Village. There she discovers her father’s spirit for life and the legacy he left behind with the help of an old café, a few eccentric friends, and one charming musician.
Will Ryan is good-looking, poetic, spontaneous, and on the brink of fame when he meets Mia, his new landlord, muse, and personal heartbreaker.
A story of self-discovery and friendship, Sweet Thing shines light on the power of loving and letting go.
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Track X: Learning to Fly
“Three shots of tequila, please.” I leaned my bag and guitar case against the bar stool and looked around before hopping up. Airport bars are weird. It’s not like a regular bar where you go to meet people and socialize. It’s where people who are stuck in a terminal and scared to fly go to get fucked up. Everyone in the place was zoned out and staring at the massive TVs above the bar.
The bartender looked like the most interesting man in the world. I wondered for a second if I should order a Dos Equis.
“Hey boss, I’ll take a Dos Equis too.”
“You got it.”
Pour faster. I need a drink. I hate flying.
I felt a tugging at my pant leg. I looked down into a pair of terrified blue eyes. I hopped off the stool and bent over until I was face-to-face with this tiny kid. He was shaking.
“What’s up, guy? Aren’t you a little young to be in a place like this?”
“I wost my mom.” His lip started quivering and then his eyes started watering and then— oh shit— his face contorted just before he burst into full-blown tears.
“Calm down. Calm down, buddy. I’ll help you find her.” I waited as he tried to control the sobs; he took two big gulps and then started hiccupping. This kid was cute, all watery blue eyes and blond, shaggy hair in his face. “Okay, man, what does she look like?”
“Ummmm… She wooks wike my mom.”
“Yeah… I’m gonna need a bit more than that.” I smiled really big; he hiccupped and then giggled a little.
“Ummmm… She has fancy haiw.”
Shit, this kid’s screwed. He can’t say his Rs or his Ls.
“She’s a cute giw.”
“She’s a cute girl, huh?” I grinned when he nodded his head. “I bet.”
Right at that moment, I looked up to find a hot mess of a woman breathing frantically, clutching her shirt just over her heart, and looking down at the kid and me.
“You weren’t lying, bro. She’s cute.”
He giggled again.
Mom let out a long breath and then whispered, “Thank God.”
“No need to thank me,” I said as I stood up. Her serious face immediately turned into a giddy smile.
“Funny,” she said.
I grinned and then winked at her. An instantaneous blush spread across her face.
“You’re adorable, you know that?”
Oh man, that made her so nervous.
I spotted a second kid hiding behind her legs. I also spotted the glimmer of a wedding band. She started fumbling her words, “Are…are you hitting on me?”
I arched my eyebrows and she began laughing hysterically.
“I’m a little ol—”
“Baby, love doesn’t discriminate. Anyway, I see you’re taken… The good ones always are.”
Over the speaker I heard last call boarding at my gate. Shit.
“Okay, I gotta run,” I said to her and then directed my attention to the boys; “You turkeys stick close to your mom so you can look out for her, okay?” They both nodded. I reached out to shake her hand. “I’m Will. It’s nice to meet you…?”
“Lauren, and same to you.”
Glancing back at the bar, I could see that my drinks were no longer there. I said a final goodbye and then took off toward my gate, totally sober with my guitar banging against my back.
I fucking hate flying.
I go back to Detroit to visit my family a few times a year and every time I vow that I will never fly again. Three years ago I started going to this shrink, Dr. Payne.
Seriously, that was his fucking name. Why anyone would go to a doctor with the last name Payne still baffles me, but I did. Worse than that, his first name was Richard. His goddamn name was Dick Payne. Anyway, Dick Payne wanted me to do this special kind of therapy called “In Vivo” to get over my fear of flying. I had to imagine and then write down all these horrible scenarios. It started with the normal flying bullshit: turbulence, strange noises, crying babies, disgruntled passengers. Then we moved on, week by week, until I was making up stories about plummeting to earth in a fiery ball, people’s bodies being sucked out of windows, appendages, carnage, you name it. Dick recorded these horrible stories as I read them aloud and then he would replay them over and over while I cringed and tossed and turned and practically wept like a baby on his weird shrink couch.
Evidently the thought was that I would eventually become desensitized to the idea of crashing after replaying the worst possible scenarios over and over. It did nothing for me; it was painful. Dick Payne. I should have known—Dick fucking Payne. The last time we met, he gave me a prescription for Xanax and basically said “In Vivo” had a pretty low success rate. His parting words were “Here, Will. Here’s a prescription if you feel you need it. Try not to think about dying, and a couple of shots of tequila wouldn’t hurt either.”
Rushing onto the plane, I looked down the aisle and spotted my seat right away.
And then I saw her. I saw her…
She appeared to be sleeping; she had ear buds in and a travel pillow around her neck. Right before I approached, she glanced up at me and that’s when I blurted out, “Hey!” I paused, searching for words as I stared directly into her eyes, her really gorgeous eyes, the kind you just want to dive into and swim around in. “Do you want the window seat? It’s all yours if you do.”
She scowled. “Huh? Uh, no thanks.”
I think I pissed her off. Man, this girl was cute, pretty, no… beautiful. She had a bunch of silky, dark hair wrapped in a bun on top of her head. I never get nervous around women, but in that moment I was more nervous than I had been in my entire life.
“I’m a terrible flier,” I told her. “Please, I need to be in the aisle. I’m sorry, do you mind? I’m Will, by the way…”
She stood abruptly and grabbed her things. Without making eye contact, she stuck her hand up and mumbled, “Yeah, fine, you can sit there. I’m Mia.”
Rearranging the overhead compartment, I startled her when I threw her bag on my seat. She looked up at me. Man, those eyes.
“Sorry, baby, I’ve got to make room for her.” She shrugged and pretended to ignore me, but seconds later I caught her staring at me out of the corner of her eye. I was totally getting to her.
I plopped down in my seat, looked over at her, and smiled. My eyes were immediately drawn to her blushing mouth with its naturally pink, pudgy little bottom lip.
I wanted to suck on that lip.
“Why didn’t you request an aisle seat?”
“Well, you see, sweetheart, I like to be right behind the emergency exit. I’ll hop over this seat, jump out the door, and be down that super slide in a split second.”
“Then why not request the exit aisle?”
“I am not the person for that job, trust me.”
“Damn, chivalry is dead. It doesn’t matter anyway; our lives are in the hands of these hopefully sober pilots and this nine-hundred-thousand-pound hunk of metal, so…”
“Can we stop talking about this? I don’t think you understand.” I didn’t want to shut her down, the banter was refreshing. Plus, I love girls with brains and a backbone, but my nerves were getting to me. I took out the rosary I’d bought in the gift shop started to peel the price tag off it. She continued needling me with her melodic little voice. It was hard to concentrate on what she was saying because I was mesmerized by her, completely enchanted by the way she smelled, her eyes, and man, those lips.
After chuckling at another one of her digs, I finally turned toward her and whispered, “Hey, little firecracker, you like taunting me, don’t you?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled. I winked at her and watched her reaction. She sucked in a breath, making the tiniest sound, and then swallowed and looked away, but not before her eyes trailed down my entire body and back up.
While I was memorizing the safety procedures, the pilot scared the shit out of me when he came on the speaker to announce that we were cleared for takeoff.
“Jesus Christ! Did he sound drunk to you?”
With a look of sympathy, Mia turned toward me and in the calmest voice said, “Not at all. Relax, buddy, everything will be fine and you should probably tone down the Jesus Christs, at least while you’re still wearing that thing.”
I asked her to open the screen so I could see us get off the ground and then I leaned over and inhaled deeply. She smelled so clean.
“You smell good,” I told her. “Like rain.” She blushed again and then asked me about my guitar. She knew something about guitars, I could tell. When the plane started to take off, I gripped the armrest. She put her hand over mine and just held it there while we continued our conversation. The warmth of her hand was calming. When I would tighten my grip, she would tighten hers. I think it was subconscious. I’m sure she didn’t notice she was doing it, but she comforted me.
When she mentioned that her father had just passed away, her eyes started to well up. I took my other hand and put it on top of hers. I think that was first moment she realized where her hand had been because she yanked it away and wiped her eyes. I immediately apologized for her loss.
“It’s okay, but I’d rather not talk about it right now. Let’s talk about guitars.” She had this really sweet, genuine, but totally pained, look on her face. It was like she was trying to be strong and hide the hurt, but her expressive eyes and face made that impossible.
We talked the whole length of the flight and I just kept thinking that I had to know this girl. I needed to be in her life, but I could tell she was going through something, so I tried to keep it light.
As we started to descend, I panicked at the thought that we could walk off this plane and never see each other again.
“Mia, we’re going down. I need to know everything about you right now! How old are you, what’s your last name, what street do you live on? If we make it out of this, I think we should jam together, you know, musically or whatever.”
“My last name is Kelly, I’ll be at my father’s café most days—Kell’s on Avenue A. Come and have a coffee with me sometime and we’ll talk music. Oh, and I’m twenty-five.”
It seemed like we had so much in common. I couldn’t believe my luck getting to sit next to her. She was beautiful, but in the humble way, not insecure, humble. She was smart and funny and sarcastic and witty and she loved music, but on top of that she was gentle. She wanted to comfort me, even if she didn’t realize she wanted to, and that’s what she’d done. Maybe it was fate that I sat next to her that day, or serendipity, divine intervention, who knows? However you look at, I got seated next to the first girl to ever really steal my heart. I was in love from that moment on. I knew Mia, with all her grief, sensitivity, and depth would be a challenge, but that made me want her even more.
I lowered my voice. “We both have double first names. I’m Will Ryan, twenty-nine. I live at 22 Mott Street in the storage closet. I work at the Montosh. I’m O negative, you know, the universal one, and I play in a band called the Ivans. Oh, and I love coffee. It was nice to meet you, Mia.”
“It was nice to meet you too,” she said.
“We made it,” I told her. “You know, they say people who have stared death in the face together are bonded for life?”
She giggled. “Your antics are cute, Will.”
“I was going for irresistible,” I said and then I watched her stumble and nervously grab her things. I walked behind her, up the aisle toward the exit. Some dickwad practically knocked her over when he tried to cut into the line. “Hey! Watch it, buddy!”
When Mia turned and shot me the cutest smile, I said, “See, baby, chivalry isn’t dead.”
I followed her all the way out to the curb. She didn’t turn around once as she waited for a cab. I lit a cigarette, looked up to the sky, and prayed. Right as her taxi began to pull away from the curb, she glanced over at me. I waved really big and mouthed, “Goodbye, Mia, you Sweet Thing.”
At that moment I wanted so badly to call Dick Payne and tell him about the flight. I wanted to tell him I didn’t think about dying once… All I thought about was living.
Dawn’s Review 5 Stars
Mia and Will. What a beautiful and sometimes heart-wrenching story. Mia recently suffered the loss of her father, her Pops. On her flight into New York City to decide what to do with her Pops’ cafe and apartment, Mia meets Will, the sexy guitarist that seems to see into a part of Mia that she doesn’t let the world into very often.
As much as this is Mia and Will’s story, I believe this is Mia’s story. Her story of finding a balance between her heart and her head. Her story of coming to grips with losing her Pops and finding who she really is. It is her story of how her choices move her further into discovering her dream.
“…but most of all you are you, whoever you dream that to be.”
One of the other aspects that I found so well-done were the secondary characters such as Mia’s mom.
“As I studied her silly, drunken expression, I recognized something real, something human…I saw her vulnerability.”
For me, this was a defining moment with her mom that hit me like a ton of bricks. She realized how her mom was not just her mom, but someone who was young once, who made mistakes, and who Mia could now see a glimpse of as more than her mother.
I love the way Renee Carlino gave me a look into Mia through the eyes of Lauren, the woman she meets in the airport. When I started reading Sweet Thing, I imagined Mia’s life to be on the precipice of two very different paths. And Lauren represented how Mia’s life might be if she took one of those paths. I don’t provide spoilers, but I will say I loved how Lauren became a part of the story and in a way I was not at all expecting.
“He looked like the cover love child of GQ and Rolling Stone. He wore a gray suit with a white shirt and a thin black tie. His hair looked like he’d run his hands through it with a touch of gel…”
Damn, beyond his sexiness being off the charts, he’s an amazing man and one of those book boyfriends that made my heart beat faster and my breath catch. I loved his patience and his mysteriousness. His humor and his enthusiasm drew me in even further. I’ll be adding him to my BBF shelf to visit again!
Overall, this is a story of learning to deal with grief, finding your own song and place in the world, discovering your hopes and dreams, and finding the strength to forgive and love with your whole being. My heart was ripped out and stomped on at several points. And I shed tears and laughed and my heart was filled up. Sweet Thing is a story that captivated me and kept me reading all day and all night.
Review copy provided for honest review.
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*Sweet Thing will be on sale for $2.99 the two weeks of the blog tour*
Renee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.
Author Social Media Links
Website – http://www.reneecarlino.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/renayz