The Magnolia Sisters is a contemporary romance set on a Northern California flower farm. Featuring Pride and Prejudice vibes, a loving send-up and subversion of small-town romances the tropes we love (and sometimes love to hate) in them, and a plus-size heroine, The Magnolia Sisters is the perfect escapist romance!
Our hero, Luke Martin, has just walked in on our heroine, trying on wedding dresses on “behalf” of Luke’s meddling, matchmaking sister.
He didn’t know the human heart was capable of stopping itself. But when the door swung open and he saw Harper Anderson standing under a flood of light, wearing a wedding dress, his heart did just that. The thump-thump-thump, his constant companion since before he was born, suddenly ceased, leaving him breathless. Dizzy. Stupefied.
Maybe he hadn’t finished high school. He’d never held a diploma or heard his name as he walked across the stage to receive it. Because of that, he’d done more than his fair share of making up for that, reading and studying books and words and theories so no one ever suspected the truth. That studying came in handy now, when the sight of her sent off a flurry of word associations. Pretty. Fine. Dazzling. Exquisite. Marvelous. Pulchritudinous. Fetching. Angelic. Bewitching. Stunning. Gorgeous. Classy. Lovely. Sexy. Touchable. Magnetic. Magnificent. Regal. Wonderful. Sublime. Beautiful.
Yes, that was it. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
Only a few seconds of stunned silence passed between them, yet he fit a lifetime of marveling into it. An impulse to tell her exactly what he thought of her opened his jaw, only to be silenced when she breathlessly called him out.
“What are you doing here?”
“Annie sent me a text! She said she needed to see me.”
This wasn’t a situation he’d ever been in before. The text from Annie clearly read I’ll be in the last room on the left, but unless she had concealed herself somewhere in the room of carpet and marble, he sure didn’t see her. Harper sighed, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face, a good move, considering Luke’s fingers itched to reach up and tuck it behind her ear.
“She’s down the hall. Next door on your right.”
“What are you doing here? And why are you wearing that?”
And do you know how beautiful you look? The confident line of her shoulders and the proud tilt of her chin told him she did.
“Your sister asked me to try this dress on. It was too big and she wanted to see how it would look on someone.”
“Really? She hates ball gowns.”
“Yeah. Says they make her look like an animated character who accidentally came to real life. She’s always wanted a mermaid cut.”
They both froze. Simultaneous, realization struck them both. Harper bit her bottom lip, a terribly cute gesture Luke was just angry enough at his sister to ignore.
“She did this on purpose, didn’t she?”
“Almost certainly, yes.”
No, actually he wasn’t angry. By all accounts, anger should have been his go-to emotion. After all, his sister tricked them into the same room after they’d both made it clear they didn’t want to see one another and she did it in the most manipulative way possible, all because, in her bored hours alone at the house, she dreamed up some bogus fantasy about the two of them falling in love. Anger tempted him, but the sight of Harper in a gown fit for some kind of goddess-queen rattled him enough that it no longer mattered. He’d never thank Annie for putting them in this awkward situation, sure. That didn’t mean he’d hate her for it, either, especially now, when the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid his eyes on stood there looking like she’d drawn up an ocean’s worth of pearl dust and magicked it into some kind of wedding gown.
At some point, his heart stopped beating again. The dizziness didn’t go away. In fact, it only got worse every time he so much as glanced at her. In a room full of mirrors, avoiding her image proved almost impossible.
“Why would she do this?”
Saying, “because she’s convinced we’re going to fall for each other. And for us to do that we have to actually be in the same room and talk to each other instead of ignoring one another’s existence entirely” seemed a bit blunt for their current situation, so he settled for a nonchalant shrug.
“She loves chaos, I guess. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to her. Don’t want something like this happening again, do we?” He offered an uncertain laugh, which she echoed as she busied herself with tugging at the waist of the dress, carefully avoiding his eyes.
“No. I guess we don’t.”
Awkward silence reigned. Was he just imagining her discomfort? Maybe it was wishful thinking that convinced him she didn’t believe it, that maybe secretly she wanted something else like this to happen again. Just like he did. To think he’d never see anything as beautiful, as confident, as heart-stopping as her ever again… he shoved his hands in his pockets to keep from reaching out to touch her cheek, to see if her skin was as soft and warm as it appeared.
“I’ll just get going then.”
The next moment might have happened in slow motion. Or maybe he imagined it. Maybe he imagined the hopeful glint in her eye. But he didn’t imagine what he said next. And he couldn’t have imagined the brilliant, secret smile she tried to hide once she’d heard it.
“You look absolutely beautiful.”
With that, before his stupid mouth could run away any further and say something really stupid and really true, like, for example, do you want to go on a date with me? Or, maybe my sister is right and we should fall in love.