Today I am so pleased to welcome Philip William Stover to Joyfully Jay. Philip has come to share an exclusive excerpt from his latest release, The Beautiful Things Shoppe. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
I can’t think of something worse than insulting the Muppets so that’s what Prescott does when Danny first meets him. The two of them are stuck sharing the lease of The Beautiful Things Shoppe where Miss Piggy and Queen Anne sit side by side.
Just keep smiling, I tell myself. Ignore his blue eyes and the flecks of gray-green sparks that circle his pupil. Just pretend they don’t exist. I move my gaze up to the severe side part in his perfectly combed blonde hair. He looks like he’s about to start his first day of prep school in his blue blazer and khaki pants. I begin to wonder what his body is like under his crisp white button down when I gather my senses. This man had the audacity to insult my Muppets Lunch Box. Is Miss Piggy not a sacred diva? Still Uncle Arthur seems to have given him his stamp of approval. How bad can he be? Maybe we got off on the wrong foot.
“Let’s start over,” I say and extend my hand. He looks like he expects my palm to have a gag buzzer lurking. Slowly he extends his arm and we shake.
His hand is thinner and more delicate than mine but just as strong. I look down and see my hairy knuckles against his golden smooth fingers and suddenly I’m wondering what mysteries might be lurking under those perfectly ironed khakis. You know what they say, the firmer the crease…
I pull my hand away as quickly as possible so I can re-focus.
“I’m Danny Roman,” I say gathering as much formality as I can—which for me is not very much.
“I’m Prescott J. Henderson,” he says. His voice reminds me of Fred Astaire dancing lightly across the silver screen — smooth elegance and refined precision.
I chuckle, glad that he has made a small joke to lighten the mood. “No, what’s your real name?”
“That is my real name,” he says so firmly the words almost come out as a growl.
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just…I mean… Prescott J. Henderson? It sounds like a hoity-toity character in a comic book. Like Scrooge McDuck or something.”
“You think I sound like a duck?” He’s clearly annoyed.
“Well, I didn’t say you sound like a duck, but to be fair I haven’t heard you quack yet.” This guy is so uptight that any physical charm he may or may not have are completely pointless. Arthur knows how much I hate these pretentious poseurs who think taste is reserved for the privileged. How could he do this to me?
I’ve known Arthur for years and when he told me he wanted to lease out the shop I jumped at the chance. I needed a change. A big change. After getting dumped on my birthday by a guy I thought I was serious about me, I realized I needed something to help me take my focus off of romance. I’ve learned I have great instincts when it comes to vintage collectibles and lousy instincts when it comes to men. I’d love to turn my collectibles into a thriving business but having something to ground me and keep me from any amorous entanglements is just as important. The whole reason I took on this lease was so that I could stand on my own two feet.
“Listen, you’re going to have to move these boxes. I have a van arriving with some of my things in just a few minutes.” Prescott is talking to me as if I work for him. I ignore the tone.
“What time?” I ask.
“Noon,” he says like I just challenged him to a duel.
“Well, I hope your van can find a place to park,” I say nonchalantly and move back to unpacking, knowing it will eat him up.
“There’s a loading zone right in front of the shop. Obviously the van will park there,” Prescott says, falling into my trap.
“I don’t think so. That’s where my truck will be.” I take a short yet dramatic pause. “At 11:45.”
Prescott blinks, slowly and steadily, then breathes in. “I have some very fragile and valuable pieces. I’ll need a clear path and don’t want the movers spoken to or otherwise distracted in any way.”
“Spoken to? You don’t want the movers spoken to? Who do you think you are the Queen of England? Cher?”
“I just mean don’t distract them. They are serious about their work.” Prescott opens the door and a rush of cold air sweeps around the store. Arthur usually had the potbelly stove keeping the place toasty warm and without it the shop is chilly.
Prescott starts measuring the doorway. “I don’t have time to argue with you. I need to make sure the Chippendale can fit through the door.”
“Chippendale? Here I am, thinking you’re a stuffy prude. I stand corrected. I hadn’t thought of bringing in male strippers but it’s not a bad idea—and if you’re worried his piece might not fit through the door then it’s beginning to sound like a great idea.” I say in my best impersonation of Fozzi Bear, who just so happens to be on the shirt I’m wearing.
“I suppose you’re trying to make some type of vulgar joke. I’m assuming you know full-well Chippendale refers to a neoclassical style of furniture from Yorkshire, England.” He rattles off the description without hesitation. He certainly knows his stuff. “Excuse me for not laughing but I am unaccustomed to such crass humor in a place of business.” His tone is all serious, but I can tell there is a chip in his polished exterior from the way the corners of his mouth have to fight moving upward. This is the kind of guy that wants to belly laugh but thinks it wouldn’t be proper. Just because he looks like he should be playing the lead in a Merchant Ivory film doesn’t mean he needs to act like the Dowager Countess of New Hope.
I hear a series of screeches from the street so loud they can most likely be heard on the other side of the river. They’re followed by hissing, a jangle of chains and the grinding of gears. I look out the window and see a truck that looks like it has just competed in Thunderdome and in the driver’s seat is my old pal and current roommate, Lizard.
Their collections may clash but their hearts are a perfect match.
Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.
And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.
Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.
It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.
Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.
Philip William Stover splits his time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and New York City. He has an MFA in writing and is a clinical professor at New York University where he is the former chair of the writing curriculum. As a freelance journalist, his essays and reviews have appeared in Newsday, The Forward, The Tony Awards, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and other national publications.
Philip grew up tearing the covers off the romance novels he devoured so he wouldn’t get teased at school. Now he enjoys traveling the world with his husband of over twenty years and sitting in front of the woodstove with their half-Bassett, half-Sharpei rescue pup and he would never consider defacing any of the books he loves.
He is thrilled to be returning to romance and loves to write cozy, warm-hearted stories served by hairy forearms with a side of fries. He can be found on social media as Philip William Stover.
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