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Exclusive Excerpt: Unstrung by Laura Spinella

Release Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance


Even as a violin prodigy, Olivia Klein courted trouble. But when her marriage to high-stakes investor Rob Van Doren takes another wrong turn, Olivia acts out once too often. A night of bad behavior results in community service hours. Time is to be served with Theo McAdams, an inner-city teacher whose passion for music eclipses Olivia’s. As she inches toward a better place, life surprises Olivia in the form of her first husband—baseball legend Sam Nash.

Years ago, Olivia fell in love with Sam. Their impulsive marriage imploded with a fateful car crash and harsh parting words. Olivia never expected to see him again. But now Sam is back, and he wants her forgiveness. He also wants to recapture their volatile love affair. Olivia is torn between rekindling romance and saving her marriage. To her surprise, it’s the presence of the young music teacher—and the lessons from a reckless past—that may bring harmony to Olivia’s off-key life.

Exclusive Excerpt

My mother motions toward the music room. With her smartly painted fingertips, she grips my upper arm with a strength you might not expect from a seventy-five-year-old woman. She closes the pocket doors behind us. “What?” I hiss, wondering if the news has caused a plaster crack in her well-preserved comportment.

I know what the Wellesley house means to her. She lost her husband; the property is her tangible connection. It’s as though we are sharing the same thought when a flicker of emotion sparks on her face. Damn if I don’t feel one in return. “Mom, I know what the house means to you. I know this came as a shock, what Rob did—”

“Yes. What Rob did.” She opens her eyes so wide the wrinkles around them vanish. “Not his best moment. But it would have been helpful if you could have mentioned as much earlier today.”

I’m stifled; perhaps she’s come to apologize. “At the time, I didn’t have the finer details. Without Rob here to explain, especially explain how he plans to fix it . . .” I graze my hand through the air between us. “But maybe now you understand why I behaved like I did the other night, why things spiraled out of control.”

“Actually, Olivia, not in the least.”

“You do understand he’s all but gambled away your home.” She remains stone-faced. “Your coveted Wellesley house?”

“Naturally I’m upset about the house. I’m irritated with Rob. And while I don’t deal with financial matters, I’m not an idiot. But one has to choose their battles.” She looks me up and down. “If I have to expend energy on a cause . . . Rob’s transgression can be perceived as an honest mistake. Highly regrettable but honest.”

“Are you serious?”

“He’ll rectify it. Rob isn’t my point in coming back here this evening,” she says. “You are. I’ve been thinking about it since he called. The way you handled the situation—instead of trying to be a partner to your husband in a time of need, you chose to beat his vehicle into a pile of junkyard metal. Out of the two . . . events, I find it to be the more troubling aspect.”

I take a short turn around the room. “Oh my God. You are serious.”

“And you should be too.” Her face falls to a fantastic level of soberness. “How far do you plan on pushing him?”

I need a drink. Fortunately, the music room also comes with a small but well-stocked bar cart. I grab a bottle of gin and pour, downing a mouthful like tap water. I do not offer my mother a drink—let Rob get it.

“I’ve been witness to your calamitous folly in the past. I know what you’re capable of if you feel provoked. Tell me. What mother—aside from Jane Fonda’s—enjoys hearing about her daughter’s vigilante behavior?”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Mom, get an analogy from this century, would you?” Secretly, I think my mother has always been fascinated by Jane, her acts of applaudable dissidence. Marrying my father was Eugenia Strathmore’s single act of dissent in an, otherwise, all too obvious woman.

“Forget Jane. Forget your crimes. I’m far more concerned about what you’ll do next. When consumed by emotion, Olivia, you don’t possess the clearest head. I came here to offer a warning.”

“A warning?”

“Yes. A warning. Marriage is difficult. I appreciate that Rob is not perfect, but you’d better take a good hard look at your own imperfections—you’ve been fighting them for a while now.” The observation draws a stinging breath from me. “That man appears to love you unconditionally.”

I hate it when she refers to Rob as that man. It makes me feel like he’s more her business than mine.

“I thought it quite lucky when he turned up in your life, particularly so past your prime.”

Sadly, I don’t even flinch at her circa-1940s remark about my expired sell-by date.

My mother looks toward the closed pocket doors. “Rob was second in his class at Princeton. He possesses a Juris Doctor, even if he chooses not practice. He’s never even been divorced! He comes from a widely respected family—albeit New Yorkers.” She pauses, drawing closer to me and her point. “Add to the fact that this husband hasn’t responded to trying circumstances with outrageous behavior. He’s certainly not the kind of man who would shirk his responsibility by—”

“You’re not seriously going to compare Rob to . . .” I can’t believe it. No. Wait. I can absolutely believe what she’s about to say. She’s going to parlay Rob’s current mistakes into an opportunity to point out my past ones. I put down the drink and fold my arms. “Don’t do it, Mom. Don’t you dare say the words Sam Nash, or use now to rehash history so old it couldn’t possibly matter to anyone beyond the Clinton administration.”

“History, Olivia, is what we learn from. And currently, I find yours extremely relevant. As I said, at the moment, Rob’s not standing in his best light.” She shifts her bony shoulders. “Even so, it might be worth focusing on what he hasn’t done. Rob’s not a coward, Olivia. He faces his responsibilities. I would think coming to me, confessing this issue, is a fine example of that.”

“Here we go,” I mutter.

“Rob didn’t sneak off, marrying you without giving a thought to me or your father. As it is, look how long it took you to find someone compatible with your personality.”

I roll my eyes, guessing pre-Rob she had my future laid out. After she was dead, I’d take up residence in the Wellesley house, fill it with cats, engraving the word spinster on the 1905 plaque marking the front entry. “Or it could be that I simply didn’t want to get married until I met Rob.” I take a large sip of my drink. “Even Jane would cheer me on there.”

“Mmm . . . And why is it you were so anti-marriage? Was your distaste for marriage about independence or dedication to your career?” My face grows warm as she points out modern, commendable reasons for not being fixated on a significant other. Then she hits the nail on the head—or into my hand. “No, not you, Olivia. Your aversion to marriage was all about the colossal disaster of your first marital go-round. Does that make more sense?”

History rolls in, repeating like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata—irritating endless measures. “Look, if you’re going to start in with—” I sigh. She is. She’s also blocking the exit.

“Rob didn’t get you pregnant at twenty. Then, like your first husband, do nothing but breathe a sigh of relief after getting into a horrific accident. The result of which could have killed you and did end the life of your—”

“Don’t be dramatic because it suddenly suits you, Mom. The accident didn’t come close to killing me. I had a two-inch cut on my forehead and seat-belt burn.”

“Regardless, the accident did end a pregnancy that was not part of Sam Nash’s plans.”

“Or yours,” I reply.

“Perhaps. But it wasn’t your father’s reaction or mine that sent you into an emotional tailspin. You couldn’t handle it when Sam Nash left. I’m merely attempting to head off a repeat—”

“Sam didn’t leave me.” It’s how I prefer to see it. “I told him to go. There wasn’t any reason for him to stay.”

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About the Author

Laura Spinella is an East Coast author, originally from Long Island, New York. She pursued her undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. The southern locale provided the inspiration for her first novel, Beautiful Disaster, which garnered multiple awards, including a Romance Writers of America RITA nomination. She’s also lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in North Carolina before relocating to Massachusetts. She and her family currently live in the Boston area, where she is always writing her next book. Ghost Gifts is Laura’s third work of romantic fiction. She also writes sensual romance under the pen name L. J. Wilson. Visit her website at

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