2020 TopShelf Book Awards Nominee
“A comedic romp from small town to big city in search of missing money, hair catastrophes, and love. A truly fun read”– Cynthia Hickey, author of the Shady Acres Mystery series
What happens when a New York stockbroker crashes his car into Eve Castleberry’s North Carolina beauty shop … on the same day the young widow’s defective hair products are causing wild hairdos? Soon, Eve finds herself helping the handsome stranger hunt the thieves who stole his clients cash...and hot on the trail of two of the FBI’s most-wanted criminals!
Romance blossoms amid danger, suspense and Eve’s hair-brained plan to get back the money.
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Philip Wells glanced at the majestic blue-tinted mountains in the distance. New York City stress fell from him like the waterfall he passed on his right. He turned into a winding curve and climbed a steep grade flush with green hardwoods, white dogwood blossoms, and pink wildflowers. His taut muscles loosened. If he’d known the Western North Carolina Mountains would bring such peace, he would’ve asked George to send him here on a business trip.
He’d resented leaving the country club when George appointed him to take care of Mr. Jacobsen’s account, but not anymore. Riding through these hills gave him new-found freedom. His heart danced until he zipped into another curve at the edge of a cliff and glimpsed the precipice beyond the guard rail. He gripped the steering wheel as the need to secure his space on solid ground rushed through him.
He’d driven on the highway for miles and hadn’t seen another car. According to the GPS, he’d round a few more bends and pull into Triville, located sixty miles northwest of Asheville. George had reserved a room for him at Triville Motel near the base of Mr. Jacobsen’s mountain. Philip glanced at the towering peaks surrounding him and tried to imagine owning one. George had instructed him to contact Mr. Jacobsen, let him know he’d arrived, and set up a meeting.
Who would’ve thought Make More Money’s newest and biggest client would live up here? Hey, he could see how the guy wanted to own one of these magnificent hills. He’d never seen a view this gorgeous out his office window, but what about the coffee houses, parties, custom-tailored suits, and civilization? What made someone tick who chose this type of life? Did the old codger not like people? A twinge of uneasiness pricked Philip’s skin. What sales approach should he use?
Philip rounded a curve, and a truck barreled toward him on his side of the road. His heart jumped in his throat as he swerved to miss it. It grazed the side of Philip’s car, jarring him while sending his vehicle onto the shoulder. Philip’s heart clenched. He steered toward the road and tapped the brake as he started downhill, but his car gained speed. The trees blurred as he whizzed past them. He mashed the pedal. It slammed to the floorboard, and a helpless sensation rippled over Philip. His leg shook as he pumped again and again.
The bright May sun beaming through the window of my beauty shop created a stripe across the black shampoo bowl. Every day the ache in my heart for Jordan reminded me that Eve’s Clips was my life now. I leaned Joyce Westmoreland’s head back and scrubbed her blonde locks. Then I reached for the conditioner on the metal shelf behind the shampoo bowl. The bottle was empty, and it was the last one I had. That ne’er-do-well Durbin Brown hadn’t delivered my products.
A breeze hit me in the face as the door swung open, the pink flowered curtain flapping.
“Hello, where have you been? You were supposed to come on Monday.” I held out the container. “I’m out.” My insides boiled at such bad service, not to mention that my creepy new salesman reminded me of Ichabod Crane.
He plopped down several cardboard boxes, ripped the top off one and handed me Strawberry Fields Conditioner.
Durbin pulled a small pad out of his pants pocket, flipped it open, and tapped his foot. “I’m writing a bill for you.”
The building shook. Metal crunched. Bricks fell amid loud scraping.
My nerves vibrated.
Durbin’s mouth twitched.
Joyce bounded out of her chair.
“Quick, under the vanity,” I yelled out.
Joyce shot to it like a bullet, but Durbin froze. I grabbed his spindly arm and pulled him behind me, the heels on his black boots scraping across the gray laminate floor. “Get under here.” I couldn’t help but use a harsh tone. He hunkered down, and I scooted in beside Joyce. He nuzzled into my shoulder and shivered like a wet puppy. My head spun as the walls shook, shards of glass fell, and drywall dust trickled into the air.
Finally, the structure stood still and quiet. I crawled out, and my legs nearly buckled under me.
Joyce and Durbin followed.
Then we all turned toward the window.
My heart sank and landed like a rock in my stomach.
A blue car stuck through the wall and lower portion of the large glass window. Two airbags filled the vehicle’s cracked windshield.
I stumbled to a salon styling chair and dropped down. First Jordan, now this. Was the driver all right? Would the ladies of Triville desert me if I couldn’t fix their hair?
Joyce plunked down in the chair in front of the shampoo bowl. She appeared shaken, water trailing down her face from the half-rinsed hair. Durbin was as white as Triville’s winter snow, the smirk he usually wore gone. He collapsed in the seat underneath the upturned hair dryer as the door on the driver’s side of the wrecked car creaked.
A man with a trim athletic build staggered out.
I swallowed my tears and stared at him. I’d never seen him before. As handsome as he was I’d remember if I had.
In moments he opened the shop door and joined us. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. Is everyone all right?”
My insides exploded with sorrow over my ruined shop, but I wasn’t physically harmed. “I’m OK.” I directed my gaze at Joyce.
“Just frightened,” she said.
Durbin leapt up as though someone had injected him with adrenalin, stiffened, and held out his writing pad and pencil. “Back to your bill.”
How could he think about that now? I must’ve looked at him as though he had three eyes, because he said, “I have other clients.” He gestured toward the stranger with his pencil. “I can’t stay here just because this dude rammed his car through the window. I have to keep moving.”
He pointed to a line on the small notebook, and I signed. “Would you please come on Monday next month?”
“It’s out of my way, so I have to make a special trip, but I’ll try. I suppose all the ladies need to spruce up for the Cow Flop Festival or whatever is on the busy agenda on the outskirts of nowhere.” The familiar smirk reappeared.
Joyce clenched her jaw, sat up, and ruffled the burgundy cape I’d placed over her blouse. “Now, you wait just a minute, Mr. uh...”
Durbin brushed drywall dust from his lapel. “Brown, Durbin Brown.”
I wanted to tell him to take his products and never come back, but I needed them, and my shop was at the base of a mountain quite a distance from most salesmen’s routes. He turned and strutted out the door.
“I apologize for the mess I’ve made, but...” the man who’d run into my shop peered at me with pleading, powder-blue eyes. “I need to use your landline.” He shook his cell phone. “This thing won’t work.”
If only Jordan were here. My head swirled as I tried to think what to do about Joyce’s hair, keep my blood from boiling over at Durbin, and not cry over the disaster this man had made in my shop. The color had drained from the poor guy’s face. What did he say? Oh, his cell phone won’t work. “No, it wouldn’t. Eve’s Clips is in a dead zone.”
The way he gazed at me he might as well have said, I agree. This whole town’s in a dead zone.
Ralph Wisner and his wife lived in the house next door, the only people for miles around. They both worked all day, or they would’ve been over here to see what was going on. Triville was a nosey place, but everyone knew everyone else, and people cared about each other.
“Uh...” I gestured toward the landline, sitting untouched on my desk. “Help yourself.”
Joyce stared at the man with wide eyes.
“I’ll need to cancel my appointments today, but I’ll finish your hairdo.” I tried to reassure Joyce then I re-directed my gaze to the man. “Sir, if you don’t mind, sit at this end of the desk away from the debris.” I tapped the unaffected area. We dared not touch anything until the police and insurance adjuster checked the damage.
“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled out the straight-back chair with a flowered cushion that matched the curtains.
The glass crunched, and I shivered inside at the mess he’d made. What was he doing way out here? Eve’s Clips was on the main highway, which wound up steep hills dotted with pines, hardwoods, and apple trees. Few people traveled it after November thirtieth when the tourists left.
Joyce touched her tresses. “I appreciate your willingness to fix my hair. I can’t go to work like this.”
The man spoke into the receiver. “Mr. Jacobsen, this is Philip Wells. I’m sorry, but I’ll be late arriving at your house. I’m at Eve’s Clips in Triville. I’ve had a bit of car trouble.”
That was putting it mildly.
He kept his ear glued to the phone. “Yes sir, I appreciate your patience.” The man’s pale, handsome face drooped.
Question 1: Philip’s car crashing into Eve’s beauty shop affects her income, but the business means more to her than her livelihood. Why?
Answer 1: It’s a social outlet for the lonely widow. She says, “Since Jordan died only my customers connected me to the small town outside my beauty shop.”
Question 2: When Philip first arrives in Triville to service Mr. Jacobsen’s account with Make More Money, he enjoys the scenery, but it doesn’t occur to him to ever live here. Why and what changes his mind?
Answer 2: At first Philip misses the glitz and glitter of his life in New York. However, he’s drawn to the people in Triville more and more, even though he doesn’t understand why. Then he hears Reverend Binder’s sermon saying God wants us to offer our fellow man friendship. He tells the congregation, “Perhaps our neighbor’s not the most likable person in town. But what is his burden? Even if we don’t know, we treat him or her as God says.” It occurs to Philip that the residents of Triville accept one another and live by these words. That makes their lives different from some of the people he knows who only tolerate each other for business reasons.
Question 3: How do we know many of the citizens of Triville want Philip and Eve to become a pair?
Answer 3: A couple of times when Philip comes to the beauty shop to ask Eve for a date, she’s about to decline, but her customers accept for her. The residents seem to go out of their way to be friendly to Philip. Even Frank, who catches Philip kissing Eve in his general store, suggests they should see each other. When Eve tries to explain they only came in to use the scale, Frank laughs and says “...As far as I’m concerned, it’s about time, but not here.”
Question 4: Eve is attracted to Philip. Why does she want to stop seeing him and how does she solve that problem?
Answer 4: Eve’s already devastated from her husband’s death. She believes Philip will leave Triville after he’s conducted his business, and she can’t cope with losing someone else. Philip claims they’ll see each other after he leaves, but she’s doubtful. Finally, she makes a deal with him. She’ll see him without all the kissing and hugging. That way, he won’t be lonely while he’s waiting to conduct his business, and she won’t be as hurt when he leaves.
Question 5: What makes Eve different from the other women Philip’s been dating?
Answer 5: He sees Eve as more genuine. In his mind Eve’s personality sparkled like a diamond, the real thing, and he realized he’d been dating cubic zirconias.
Question 6: Philip’s in the drugstore looking for a suspicious character who may have stolen Mr. Jacobsen’s money. When he eats lunch there, he tells the waitress, Teresa, she’s a smart woman enjoying success others only dream about. Why?
Answer 6: He sees wisdom in Teresa’s statement, “Life ain’t worth living if you ain’t happy, and you won’t be happy unless you love the spirit.”
Question 7: Reverend Binder’s wife, Nancy, works hard on projects at church and at home. She has a caring spirit and kind words flow from her like a river. Eve ponders this. How does she do it day after day? What does Eve conclude?
Answer 7: She believes Nancy resists close involvement. She says “she rendered her good deed then disappeared from the scene like a lightning bug appears, brings a moment of joy, and flies away.” Eve believes Nancy and Reverend Binder accept the good and bad sides of the congregants, and the congregants try to follow their examples.
Question 8: Eve’s aggravated at Bonnie Sue for flirting with Philip. In spite of that, how do we know Eve cares about Bonnie Sue?
Answer 8: When Philip and Eve try to keep out of Jack and Joey’s sight in Bob’s diner, Philip isn’t as friendly as usual to Bonnie Sue. Bonnie Sue seems upset, and that worries Eve. She wants to cheer her up, so she explains that Philip’s just tired. When Bonnie Sue brings Philip's plate, he flashes Bonnie Sue a big grin, and she’s happy.
Question 9: How do we know Bonnie Sue cares about Eve, and what would be your definition of a hairicide law?
Answer 9 At the end of the book when everyone goes to watch Chief Grimes arrest the salesman who tried to run Eve out of business, Bonnie Sue sashays in front of the crowd. She tells the crooked salesman that Triville has a hairicide law and he broke it. She’s obviously angry at him. I’d say a hairicide law is one against destroying a person’s hair.
Question 10: When does Eve grieve over Jordan’s death for the first time? Why was she able to tap into her grief then?
Answer 10: Eve grieves for Jordan when she tells Philip what happened. She sobs and sobs, but realizes for the first time since Jordan died, she’s free to be herself. She’d been strong for her mom before the funeral because her mom was recovering from cancer treatments. After the funeral, friends stayed with her and she didn’t want to break down in front of them. When they left, she returned to work and concentrated on her business because that’s what she thought she should do. Since then she’s focused on running the beauty salon and hasn’t let her true feelings surface until now.