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Best Man

Geneva “Poppy” Pembrooke, wedding couture designer, yearns to forget the rugged Thistle polo player who jeopardized her career and health. Yet how can she when he sets her heart afire and is the Best Man for her client’s wedding of the year?

Doug Abbott, country vintner, discovers that he’d injured beautiful Lady Gen in a tragic polo accident. He can’t forgive himself, but when foul play evidence surfaces things change, and he fights for a second chance to win her heart.

(Trade paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-59705-684-7

(eBook)
ISBN: 978-1-59705-408-9

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REVIEWS:

5 out of 5 Stars!

"BEST MAN is truly a complex, heartwarming tale of the ‘City mouse meeting the Country mouse’. Geneva and Doug’s relationship all comes together during the Christmas season when love conquers all obstacles. It is the kind of story that proves that regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles between two different lifestyles, love and compassion can overcome all problems on the bumpy road to eternal joy. Multi-published author, Karen Hudgins sure has a way of writing a book you’ll want to hold to your heart."
JoEllen Conger, Conger Book Reviews. 9/26/2011

"BEST MAN is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and to top that off it contains everything I like and look for in a contemporary romance. Karen Hudgins hits the mark with this story and shows us a modern couple who have hit it off literally from the start, and it never lets up and only gets better. This is a keeper for my book shelf, and I’m glad of it.”
Elaine Breault, Reviewer and Editor


"BEST MAN is delightful from start to finish! Karen Hudgins brought Missouri wine country to life and filled it with characters you’ll quickly fall in love with. A must-read for those who enjoy strong, feisty heroines and well-written stories packed with romance."
Erin Leach, WU Catalog Librarian


5 Foxpaws!
"This is a book that will bring out the best in you, because the story is self-enlightening. You will become a better person for reading Best Man. The story tension constantly escalates throughout the entire book. The multi-layered tale has revelation on each page you turn. Various back stories are played out as background and are woven tightly as a May pole. This reviewer will definitely keep Best Man on the keeper shelf. Do yourself a great kindness and read Best Man by Karen Hudgins.”
Dee Carey, Foxpaw Reviews


"Like the fine wines in this story, Karen Hudgins twists and turns the bottle in this captivating story, producing a very juicy tale of friendship, intrigue, and romance."
Deanna M. Noga, Reader


"Karen Hudgins’ gripping narrative is stitched together with the same extraordinary precision and artistry as her beguiling heroine Geneva puts into her wedding couture. BEST MAN wins your heart from page one and harkens back to the gilded age of great works of literature such as Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. R.S.V.P. to this invitation because Best Man is an affair you do not want to miss."
Christopher “C.Q.” Scafidi, Author, Time Couriers, Athena Press.


"BEST MAN is another winner for Karen! From the very beginning I fell in love with Doug and Geneva. You will be drawn into their attraction to each other under unusual circumstances. This one has mystery, romance, and new beginnings that will keep you turning the pages to their happily-ever-after. This is a must buy! ~
Judith Leigh, Author


"BEST MAN is a sexy and absorbing story with characters you feel you know already. Great fun!"
Diane Wittling, Reader


"The sweet sentimentality of BEST MAN is like curling up with your favorite blanket, or person. Reading Hudgins’s novel offers a chance to join the party of one of the most prestigious, exclusive VIP weddings in Coventry, wine country Missouri. It’s a personal invitation to the wedding of the year."
Jennifer Hultz, Reader

EXCERPT:

As Geneva reached for another pearl from an acrylic box, her cell phone pinged. She placed the needle in its cushion and removed her thin, white cotton gloves. Tucking them into her smock pocket, she padded across the room to a cluttered work table. A button tap connected her to Ellyn.

Geneva greeted her cheerfully enough. “Has our appointment arrived?”

“Not yet, luv. It’s a tad early, but the seamstresses’ hours are tallied. We have new spools of silk thread, and I’ll be leavin’ shortly for fresh scones.”

“Could we have cranberry?”

“I’ll give it a go,” Ellyn said.

“Wait,” Geneva said, tightening her fingers around the phone. “Mr. Abbott didn’t leave a message, did he? I mean, he’s still coming?”

“Tch. Tch. Not a word to the contrary.”

Geneva began to relax her grip, and Ellyn gently reminded her, “He’s only an appointment…among many.”

“Not quite,” Geneva said faintly.

“True. He’s more handsome than most.”

“Well…yes, he’s that, but you know what I mean.”

“I do,” Ellen replied. “And you’ll manage him fine. I shan’t be long.”

Geneva thanked her and hung up. She laid the phone down, stepped away, and sighed in a sudden rush. All that had to be finished for Cherie sped through her mind. Despite Geneva’s five-week set-back, work for the bride remained fairly on target for completion.

Geneva’s crew and Ellyn deserved kudos for that. The bride, maid of honor, three bridesmaids, two junior bridesmaids, and one darling flower girl had returned as needed several times since Geneva had accepted this commission.

However, this sterling progress wasn’t true for the groom’s side. What Geneva and her helpers needed to accomplish for Tom Abbott and his party was missing the mark. Custom vests and ties for seven men also required time to make.

But if all went well today, she could begin outfitting Doug with a proper vest and tie and mark him off the list. Yet, a question that had nothing to do with wedding wear lurked in her heart. Will he remember me, or even know who I am?

Geneva’s wrist suddenly ached. For sure, Doug had helped cause her hardship. She still awoke from a deep sleep, hearing and fearing the thunder of those sweaty, thoroughbred polo ponies bearing down on her.

Frankly, with all due respect to her beloved Aunt Phoebe, time was just not passing fast enough for Geneva to be able to forget or forgive. Doug might be used to sustaining injuries from sprints at full gallop for his weekend sport and folly, but she was not. Although he couldn’t change the outcome, she felt he owed her at least a polite apology. Or an inquiry as to her well-being. Yet, to her surprise, nothing of the like had come forth.

For now, timing couldn’t be worse for a confrontation. Cherie and her family would catch wind of it. “Clients get pesky over much less,” she murmured as she stepped to the windows. The cooler, northern wind blew down-river again and fluttered the gauze curtains. Often it brought downpours into this hilly wine country. She could smell the ozone in the air from the approaching rain in the air and latched the three creaking windows.

Geneva stepped over cotton sheeting. The pink cloth separated her slippered feet from the polished oak floor in this part of the long room where fashion creativity and finery were fiercely protected. Cherie’s strapless, full-skirted gown with its scalloped sweep train dominated the room. Her illusion tulle veil hung in the cherry armoire.

Reaching the radio, Geneva turned it on. She returned to Cherie, put on her gloves with their pretty crocheted edges, and got to work. She already felt better, despite the rain that tapped the windows. Minutes drifted into a place where creativity erased time.

When Geneva finally looked up, she started. Douglas Abbott gazed at her from the doorway. Solid, good-looking, he filled her view. He’d traded his polo shirt and jodhpurs for jeans and a tan Abbott’s Vineyard shirt. He nodded at her and sauntered into the Bride’s Loft. Large, damp shoe prints on the sheeting followed him in his wake.

Geneva widened her eyes in disbelief.

“Stop! Right now! Please!” she cried. As she jerked her hand up, a rude prick jabbed her thumb. She dropped the tethered needle, leaving it dangling from a rose. She tightened her frown as the visitor slowly halted in front of her.

Half his smile faded, but he proffered his hand for a shake.

“I’m Doug Abbott, and I—”

“Yes, of course….you are. Excuse me…but didn’t you see Ellyn?” Geneva asked, keeping her hand to herself. Her thumb throbbed.

He hiked an eyebrow. “I’m not sure who you mean.”

Geneva cleared her throat. He was more than handsome. “She’s our office manager. Downstairs.”

Doug studied her intently, and she him. Pushing him away and pulling him in at the same time, like the surf on a beach in a maddening rhythm. Ellyn, bless her, was wrong. He was already difficult. Her only recourse was to talk.

“Hmmm…she should’ve been back by now, and was to let me know when you arrived,” Geneva went on. “I would’ve come down to meet you in our lobby.” Hastily, she moved between him and Cherie’s gown. Moving her hands to her hips, she tried to block at least some of his view. “It’s the way we do things here,” she said. “Mr. Abbott, do you realize where you are?”

The best man withdrew his unmet handshake. Straightening his mouth, he raised a forefinger for her to wait a minute and plucked a BlackBerry from his pocket. He tapped a button and read aloud, “One thirty. 15 Lark Street. Geneva Pembrooke, Fine Wedding Couture. Weekdays Nine to Five. Weekends by Appointment Only.”

Looking up at her, he added, “I’m also eleven miles east of Abbott’s Vineyard, and three blocks from the Country Store. Tom’s looking over the place this afternoon for the owner.” He repocketed the palm device. “Tom’s the groom, and I’m his older brother.”

Geneva stared at him. She’d never seen such blue eyes in a man, but was he usually this bothersome, this insolent?